A U.S. Marine was killed in a skirmish with Islamic State in northern Iraq on Saturday, making him the first American combat casualty in an attack by the extremist group in that country, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
The unidentified Marine died after Islamic State fighters fired rockets at a recently established base near Makhmour, on the outskirts of the region of Kurdistan, according to an e-mailed statement from the Pentagon. Several other Marines were being treated for injuries, the Pentagon said.
The Marine unit works separately from Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces in the area, Iraqi General Najim Abdullah al-Jabouri said in a telephone interview from Makhmour.
“Their work is secretive and they sometimes operate special ops in Islamic State-held towns such as Hawija and other places,” said al-Jabouri, 60, the commander charged with preparing an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the extremist group.
Makhmour is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was captured by Islamic State in June 2014.
Last October, a member of a U.S. special operations team was killed during a raid to free hostages of Islamic State in Hawija, in northern Iraq. It was the first American death in action in the country since U.S. forces returned to assist in the battle against the terrorist group that has taken portions of Iraq and Syria for a self-proclaimed caliphate.
Saturday’s attack wasn’t a surprise, al-Jabouri said. “There is no safe place in Iraq,” he said. “Even the Green Zone in Baghdad, which houses the U.S. Embassy, is being targeted by rockets.’